Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to the Wild creates several scenarios for the Tampa Bay Lightning
If nothing else, the announcements Wednesday that defenseman Ryan Suter and center Zach Parise are taking their talents to Minnesota should loosen up a free agent market that pretty much came to a standstill waiting for the two stars to make their decisions.
For the Tampa Bay Lightning, Suter's signing means watching how the Plan B market shakes out.
Ideally, the Lightning needs one more addition on defense, and it long has been believed it has an interest in Matt Carle. Michal Rozsival also is available. But general manager Steve Yzerman has said he believes it is possible for a mini bidding war to ensue for especially Carle as teams looking for blue line help and which lost out on Suter turn to the next available options. Carle, at the top of the Plan B heap, will try to get the best possible deal from teams with money to spend that had been budgeted for Suter.
The Lightning never was in on Suter because the price -- 13 years, $98 million, as it turned out -- was too high.
Yzerman has said he is not interested in getting into a game of chicken with his fellow general managers. As he said in a Tampa Bay Times story earlier this week: "We're realistic what the market is and we're prepared to deal with the market but we're not going to blow our brains out here."
Especially with a player such as Mark Barberio, whom Yzerman called the AHL's best defenseman last season, in the organization.
"I'm not going to do something I think is inappropriate out of desperation," Yzerman added. "If it's a player that doesn't really fit us or a contract that doesn't fit what we're trying to do, we're better off saving our money and going with some young guys here. They might be better for the spot than some players we'd have to overpay to get."
What options are there for Yzerman?
He could concentrate on Rozsival, who likely would not be as expensive, or he could stand pat and see if anyone from within the organization can win a spot. Barberio has the puck-moving sensibility the Lightning needs. Radko Gudas has a physical presence the team could use as well.
Yzerman also could work a trade. He certainly would be interested in Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson, who has a reasonable two years at $3.5 million a season on his contract, if he is made available. And wouldn't it be funny if the Sharks were interested in trading Dan Boyle? That would be a more interesting conversation as Boyle, 35, has two more years on his deal at $6.7 million (a deal given him by Tampa Bay, by the way). Boyle can still produce, though, and last season had nine goals and 48 points in 81 games.
Money should not be an issue. The Lightning has about $13 million in cap space with only goaltender Anders Lindback to sign from within the organization.
All that said, Yzerman indicated he would be relatively content to enter training camp with his current defensive corps, which includes Sami Salo, just signed to a two-year, $7.5 million deal, Eric Brewer, Victor Hedman, Brian Lee, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Brendan Mikkelson, and Keith Aulie. It is clear Tampa Bay is counting on much from Mattias Ohlund, who is rehabbing from partial knee replacement surgery.
If Yzerman does choose to stand pat, expect Barberio and Gudas to get a long look.
There is plenty of time for this story to play out.